When Natural Hair Is Not Allowed In The Work Place

March 18, 2016

Hair is political. Even Chimamanda agrees.

African hair has undergone a tremendous evolution, from naturally curly or kinky hair to the chemically straightened hair to weaves and weave-ons.

Black people have over centuries, found ways to change the way their natural hair is, just to fit in with society.

Kinky hair was seen as inferior to long wavy hair. Men and women have long began to embrace their God-given textures.

Choosing to buck the norm, they’re all going back to base.

But some workplaces in these modern times still find natural hair unacceptable, as this young Ghanaian-Canadian lady came to find out.

Akua Agyemfra is a 20-year-old Humanities student at York University in Canada.

She got a job as a server at a restaurant in Toronto.

Like most college students, she got a job at to be able to pay the bills.

On her third day of training, she was sent home for wearing her hair in a bun.

According to her, the assistant general manager of the restaurant told her she was not allowed to wear her hair in a bun,  saying it was company policy. The manager said her her hair had to be worn straight down.

The manager said she expected servers to look like they’re going to the club, not coming from one.

Yes. she said that. Please, how does wearing a bun look like one is “coming from a club”? That doesn’t make any sense. Akua showed the manager that her natural hair doesn’t fall straight. But she was still sent home.

Being a non-confrontational person, she left without standing her ground.

She realized when she went home that it was a violation of her rights. Sending her home based on her hair is wrong. Akua said, “Management at Jack Astor’s did NOT specify that I had to wear my hair down every single shift. If they did, I would have NOT taken the job because I know my hair cannot be straight everyday. I had extensions during my interview and my two training shifts. After I took out my braids, my Afro didn’t not comply to the “straight hair” rule. To maintain it and look presentable, I had to put it in a bun.

She has since quit her job at the restaurant. But she didn’t take the situation lying down.

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Server told to alter hairAre you black and working in the service industry? Have you been asked to wear your hair differently on the job like Akua Agyemfra? Contact us: tonews@cbc.ca
Posted by CBC Toronto on Thursday, March 10, 2016 Akua sees their dress code as discriminatory. She has shared her story and been interviewed by media outlets and this has led to more awareness about Black people having to alter their hair just to fit in in the work place. She says “I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.”

You go girl!

But the thing is that this situation happens here in Nigeria where we ought to know better. Some workplaces forbid their employees from having afros or locs.

Banks and most other big corporate organizations are notorious for this.

This needs to change.

Having afro or locs doesn’t prevent people from doing their job. Featured image via Akua Agyemfra. [zkk_poll post=24460 poll=content_block_standard_format_14]

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